In 2006, 25 people embarked on a trip from Urfa to Hebron. They were following the footsteps of the legendary Abraham, from what may have been his place of birth, to the place he is believed to be buried. This journey laid the foundation for a bold and hopeful project: the development of walking trails approximating the narrative of Abraham (Ibrahim, in Arabic & Turkish; Braham in Kurdish) and his family, sharing hospitality with people they met along the way. Stories related to the family of Abraham abound in the region, from today’s Iraq to the Sinai Peninsula and to the Hajj pilgrimage.
By 2020, nearly 80,000 visitors had walked the network of trails inspired by the Abraham Path project. They’ve told tens of thousands of stories about the people of the region, their families, traditions, art, architecture, languages, recipes, and agricultural practices. Walkers foster friendships across sometimes challenging divides, boost local economic development, and enrich understanding of this region and its peoples for audiences around the globe.
Walking is a tool for deepening understanding of self and others; it allows an experience of culture that is unattainable from the seat of a bus. The simple act of walking has connected people around the world since time immemorial, with the Eastern Mediterranean an active crossroad among Africa, Asia, and Europe. API has seeded walking trails here in order to reintroduce this storied region as one of irrepressibly hospitable people. By shining light on traditions of hospitality, API evokes the beloved regional origin story that shows up in everyday life: residents welcome strangers in honor of Abraham, a spiritual ancestor of over half of humanity.
Together with local colleagues we have built trails and encouraged their ongoing maintenance, improvement, and extension. We have trained guides who are now training a new generation of trekking experts from the coast of the Red Sea to the Jordan Valley, and from the plains of southern Turkey to the mountains of northern Iraq. The success of these trails and news about them bolster a growing experiential tourism sector that brings jobs and income to rural families and communities. Stories shared by those that journey here weave a tapestry of appreciation that transcends preconceived notions about the reality of this region. The Abraham Path Initiative hopes that shared experiences of hospitality may help to counter misconceptions.